The Indian men's hockey team lost its semifinal against Belgium at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday, losing the plot completely in the second half of the match when the 2018 World Champions started to exert themselves with regular forays. India missed out on a chance to make their first Olympic final in over four decades, and will now take on either Germany or Australia in the bronze medal playoff.
This was India's first meeting against Belgium since their 2-3 defeat in the FIH Pro League match in February 2019.
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India got off to an iffy start and conceded a penalty corner early in the match when Felix Denayer sent a ball inside the scoring circle that was deflected off Rupinder Pal Singh. Belgium’s star drag flicker Alexander Hendrickx was not on the turf at that point. Loick Luypaert, however, stepped onto the plate and Belgium took the lead in the second minute of the match.
It took India nine minutes to get the goal back. Harmanpreet Singh sent a powerful drag flick past Belgium goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch to make things level. Two minutes later, Amit Rohidas passed a ball to Mandeep Singh inside the circle, and the forward found the target to give India the lead.
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Belgium came back stronger in the second quarter quarter, earning four penalty corners within a matter of minutes. Hendrickx scored his 12th goal of the Games from a PC, as both teams went into half time tied on two goals.
The third quarter was a cagey affair with neither of the two teams getting too many opportunities but India's inability to prevent penalty corners cost them in the final 15 minutes. Alexander Hendrickx scored two more goals, the first one a PC after Inidia were down to 10 men following the green card to captain Manpreet Singh. The fourth goal came from a penalty stroke converted by Hndrickx.
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India had to do all the chasing in the final minutes of the match. And, with India putting an extra attacker on the field, and PR Sreejesh not on the turf, Belgium veteran John-John Dohmen scored the fifth goal in the dying minutes.
"We were here to win a gold medal. That was our aim, but we lost today," said defender Rupinder Pal Singh, one of the most experienced players on the Indian side.
"The great thing is we have a chance to finish third in the next game so we will focus on that."
India have had a good tournament so far, barring the drubbing at the hands of Australia in the group stage. They beat New Zealand 3-2 in their opening group game, and picked up wins over Germany (2-0), Spain (3-1), Argentina (3-1), and Japan (5-3); and a memorable 3-1 win over Great Britain in the quarterfinals.
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